Nettle season has a tight grip on me this year – I can’t seem to get enough of these dark, rich greens! If you are not aware of the health benefits of stinging nettles, you can read about them in the headnote of my last post, Cream of Nettle Soup with Toasted Sunflower Seeds. As I mention in that post, nettles have tiny hairs on them that contain formic acid. While harmless, formic acid stings the skin on contact. For this reason, it is a good idea to handle fresh nettles with gloves, unless you want to be stung…the sting, is harmless, just a bit uncomfortable. The formic acid is neutralized when the cell wall of the plant is broken through cooking, freezing, drying or thoroughly pureeing. This last option allows us to make delicious raw nettle pesto!
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
2 packed cups fresh nettle leave
2 cloves garlic (or to taste)
salt and freshly ground pepper
Toast sunflower seeds in a skillet over medium heat until golden brown and aromatic, about 4 – 6 minutes. Let sunflower seeds cool slightly before combining in the food processor with the nettle leaves, garlic, a twist of freshly ground black pepper and 1/4 cup olive oil. Blend until smooth, adding more olive oil to get desired consistency. Season to taste with salt.